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Special Education and IEPs

According to NICHCY, the Nationl Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities, Special education is instruction that is specially designed to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability. This means education that isindividually developed to address a specific child’s needs that result from his or her disability. Since each child is unique, it is difficult to give an overall example of special education. It is individualized for each child.

Some students may be working at the pre-kindergarten grade level, others at the first, second, or third grade level. There may be students whose special education focuses primarily on speech and language development, cognitive development, or needs related to a physical or learning disability. Special education for any student can consist of:  an individualized curriculum that is different from that of same-age, non-disabled peers (for example, teaching a blind student to read and write using Braille);

  • the same (general) curriculum as that for non-disabled peers, with adaptations or modifications made for the student (for example, teaching 3rd grade math but including the use of counting tools and assistive technology for the student); and
  • a combination of these elements.

It is also important to remember that the education, services, and supports outlined in a child’s IEP do not necessarily cover that child’s entire education. The IEP only addresses those educational needs resulting from the child’s disability. If a child needs special education support throughout the school day, for all activities, the IEP will cover all these needs. If the child doesn’t need special education support in one or more areas (for example, physical education, music, or science), then the IEP will not include these subjects. The child accesses them through the general curriculum/ class, with no additional special education services.

The contents of this website were developed under a grant from the US Department of Education, #H328M140025.  However, those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the US Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government. Project Officer, Julia Martin Eile.

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